Deep South

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. 75% of Antarctic boat excursions leave from its port. The city is nestled at the feet of a glacial mountain range, with the Beagle Channel on the other side. An ideal locale for its 45,000 citizens and the tourists passing through.
Getting here was an adventure. No one told me what airline I was on this morning, and I didn't have a ticket either. I hopped a ride to the airport and fortunately there were only 3 airline counters to try, and one of them had an e-ticket for me. Hey, sometimes everything has a way of working itself out. Perhaps it's the laid back culture around me soaking through, but I never felt too distressed about the whole deal.
Something about traveling through South America keeps giving me these pangs of nostalgia. Perhaps it's the autumn weather, which always reminds me of fall days growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, or those late afternoons at Stanford when the sun was setting, classes were finished, and an open night lay ahead. Autumn is the best season.
Or perhaps my nostalgia is a result of the music around me. Where do old 80's and early 90's pop hits go to die? The tiny hotels and restaurants of the towns dotting Patagonia. Every song is a time warp back to some day in high school or college.
Or perhaps it's the cozy hotels of Patagonia. All with their extensive wood paneling and fireplaces and local decor.
Or perhaps it's dialing in over and over again, trying to find one solid connection to the Internet on this hotel computer. If I'm lucky, after redialing 9 times, I get a 21kbps connection that holds for about 10 minutes before it mysteriously disconnects again. It's the ghost of AOL, arisen to haunt another hemisphere.
Eating lots of seafood. Fish is plentiful, and king crab (centolla) is a local specialty, a bit different than the king crab commonly served in North America. Tasty, and cheap. Meat is also a specialty here, as they pride themselves on hormone-free lamb and beef. I've tried to avoid too many heavy meals of meat, though it dominates most of the menus.
The weight of water
Glaciers are highly underrated. Among geographical phenomena, mountains get much more acclaim, but most of those were carved by glaciers. Before this year, I couldn't name one glacier I'd seen in my life. I don't know if I had actually seen any in person.
These past two months I've encountered glaciers everywhere: Fox, Franz, Balamaceda, Serrano, Grey, Perito Moreno, and today Martial. I hiked Perito Moreno yesterday. It's the most impressive one I've encountered yet. The face of the glacier rises 17 stories high, and it runs down from the Patagonian ice cap some 17 kilometers. The Patagonian ice cap is the third largest in the world after Antarctica and Greenland, and the Perito Moreno glacier is simply a nub sticking out of the Southeast corner.
If you stand there long enough, a huge chunk of ice will rupture off of the face and crash into the ocean. The sound is awesome, like a giant stalk of broccoli being sheared in half. I saw several of these occurrences, and not once did it fail to elicit all sorts of frantic shouting and gawking from the crowds milling about the viewing platforms.
We hopped a boat and cruised over to the edge of the glacier where we donned crampons and hike around for two hours. Perito Moreno is unique among the world's glaciers in that it is one of the few that is stable. Most glaciers in the world are retreating for one reason or another. The tradition here is to chip off some glacier ice and drink some whiskey with it. Nothing like hiking around a giant glacier with crevasses everywhere with a whole gaggle of tourists drunk on whiskey.
Over thousands of years, snow accumulates, the pressure turns the lower layers to ice, and gravity starts to pull the ice down the mountain slope, carrying dirt and stone with it. Thus are glaciers formed. We love to pinpoint specific moments in time to derive history's course, defining events like volcanic eruptions, decisive turning points like Pearl Harbor, but it's the slow but steady forces like glaciers which most often shape our lives and our landscapes.